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Funding cut to prisoner groups 'cynical exploitation'

File picture of Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh. Picture by Mal McCann

BELFAST City Council's decision not to fund five ex-paramilitary prisoner groups was "cynical exploitation" of the political crisis, a Sinn Féin councillor has claimed.

The council voted to stop funding to republican groups including Coiste na n-Iarchimí and Tar Isteach and loyalist group EPIC.

A council committee had recommended that the five groups be given three months' funding, rather than the nine months they had requested.

But the recommendation was rejected at a full council meeting on Tuesday night.

The move came amid a political row about the IRA-linked murder of Kevin McGuigan. The PSNI said the group Action Against Drugs (AAD) carried out the father-of-nine's murder along with Provisional IRA members.

Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh hit out at the decision to stop funding.

"It was yet another cynical exploitation of the recent tragic events in Belfast," he said.

"Some of the comments made during the debate about community workers, some of whom are ex-prisoners, were reckless, irresponsible and downright dangerous.

"This move was motivated by party political in-fighting between the UUP and DUP and it is disappointing that other parties went along with it.

"As a result of this decision, hard working community groups who are making a genuine difference to the lives of local people, may lose out.

"They should not be punished in an electoral battle between unionists for party political gain."

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